Magazine article Insight on the News

Cyber-Terror a Certainty, and Government Is Most Vulnerable: The World's Computer Networks Are Becoming Increasingly Vulnerable to Hacker and Terrorist Attacks. but Security Experts Say Money Alone Can't Solve the Problem

Magazine article Insight on the News

Cyber-Terror a Certainty, and Government Is Most Vulnerable: The World's Computer Networks Are Becoming Increasingly Vulnerable to Hacker and Terrorist Attacks. but Security Experts Say Money Alone Can't Solve the Problem

Article excerpt

Professor Lance Hoffman stands before a group of curious souls, ignoring the clickity-clack of the two innocent-looking graduate students typing on laptop computers to his left as he expounds on the security of the Internet. But behind him on a screen projecting a Webpage the word "Hacked" emerges in big bold letters. The culprits? The innocent grad students.

Fortunately, this is a staged event in a classroom at George Washington University in Washington, where Hoffman is about to head up a graduate-certificate program in Internet security. But it proves Hoffman's point: Hacking into a Website or wreaking other havoc on the Internet isn't hard; all someone needs is some basic knowledge and the desire to do damage.

"All networks, whether business or government, are vulnerable," says Matt Kovar, director of security solutions and consulting with the Yankee Group, a Boston technology-analysis firm. "All networks are probed on a daily basis, and some are probed on an hourly basis."

Security companies and other groups such as the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Carnegie Mellon University have reported exponential increases in reported incidents in each of the last 10 years. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have caused many people to look at the issue of Internet security in a new light.

"With the unthinkable rapidly becoming yesterday's news, we know that cyber-crime may be quickly becoming the forerunner of cyber-terrorism," says Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). "Terrorists may soon be using our critical information infrastructure against us, blocking computer networks, disrupting real-time operations, damaging businesses and consumers."

Miller's statements echo executive orders by President George W. Bush that established a Critical Infrastructure Protection Board to aid coordination of information-security measures among government agencies. Such efforts are more important than ever in light of a House subcommittee's findings that gave the federal government an "F" for its efforts in protecting vital computer data.

But security analysts and professionals in the industry are hesitant to draw a direct link to the Sept. 11 attacks and any further threat on computer networks. "I really downplay that entirely," Kovar says. …

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